Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Third Report

Annex 29

Letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards from Mr Geoffrey Bindman, Bindman & Partners, Solicitors

  Thank you for your letter of 7 June. I am very grateful to you for clarifying the position and for setting out the complaints which you are investigating. While I note that you say, or imply, that these are complaints of breaches of the Code of Conduct and Rules you have not indicated what provision of the Code of Conduct or Rules is complained of in any single case. While I would accept that this is reasonably clear in the case of complaints of failure to register payments and other benefits, it is far from clear what breach is being investigated in other cases, for example those numbered 15, 16 and 20. The problem is that you have investigated matters which cannot easily be characterised as complaints but are rather mere rumours or second hand reports.

  I appreciate and am grateful for your acknowledgement that the matters under consideration are solely allegations and that you will take no view on whether there is any substance in any of them until my client has had every opportunity to comment or challenge any material which you put to him. However, paragraph 2 of your memorandum "The Investigation Process" indicates that it is not your practice to pursue a matter unless it appears that an allegation has "some substance". If you have decided that the 23 complaints which you are investigating all have "some substance" then I must express my surprise, especially as you are now saying that you have not yet taken a view on the matter.

  I therefore welcome your confirmation that when your enquiries are complete you will put to my client any evidence which you have collected which might appear to be at variance with his account. It would naturally be helpful so see what evidence is indeed available to support the 23 complaints or any of them. I stress that what has been put to Mr Vaz hitherto is not evidence but consists of allegations unsupported by evidence.

  I note that you describe your task as no more than conducting an investigation accompanied by your view as to whether any of the complaints should be upheld. However, I note that in previous reports you have purported to determine yourself the outcome of the complaint, by concluding your report with the phrase "complaint upheld" or "complaint not upheld". I refer by way of example to the reports relating to the Right Honourable John Prescott MP, Mr Ken Livingstone MP, and Mr Tony Baldry MP. I accept that it is for the Committee to determine the penalty if any, but it is plainly a matter of great importance whether or not a complaint is upheld by you and the highest standards of fairness should therefore apply to your investigation.

  As I suggested in my letter of 25 May, there is no justification for prolonging any investigation where no credible evidence has been produced in support of the complaint. My client continues to be prejudiced by the continuation of the investigation and is anxious for a speedy conclusion. You have been good enough to record that he has been helpful and has responded to all the allegations.

  It appears that all that remains is for you to put to him any substantial evidence which is at variance with his account in accordance with the first complete paragraph on page 2 of your letter of 7 June. I hope that any such evidence can now be communicated so that your report can then be drafted without further delay.

  I am pleased to note that you will provide Mr Vaz with a copy in confidence of your draft report before you come to your conclusions. I assume that this means that in accordance with paragraph 18 of "The Investigation Process" the Committee has decided that the matters you have investigated are serious. Can you tell me if the Committee has made such a decision or whether for any other reason you are treating the matter as exceptional?

  Finally, I enclose a cutting from "Eastern Eye" of Friday May 19[1] it claims that Mr Zaiwalla has been cleared of attempting to bribe my client, the Committee on Standards and Privileges having ruled that there was no case to answer. As you will see, the article purports to quote from a letter from Mr Robert Sheldon MP to Mr Zaiwalla. Plainly if this report is accurate it must follow that the complaint against my client made by Mr Milne is equally unsubstantiated and should also be promptly rejected.

  I shall be grateful for your response.

15 June 2000

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